This post is for those seven people left in the world who still make their own lasagna.
You know in a traditional lasagna recipe how it tells you to boil the noodles first and then layer them? Have you done this? Have you tried to get the slippery, slimy noodles from the pan only to have them tear, flop, splash and goober? Have you?
If so you may have taken note that stores now sell “oven ready” noodles that don’t need to be cooked first. You just layer them in, all stiff and hard, and they cook and soften just fine.
Your mileage may vary, but the Damsel has been doing this for years with REGULAR lasagna noodles, not special “oven ready” ones and nothing bad has happened.
She doesn’t know what the difference is between “oven ready” and regular noodles since they both look pretty much the same–except the price. There must be a difference. Surely this isn’t some grand conspiracy. Right? Right?
What the Damsel does know is that doing lasagna this way makes a formerly-complicated dinner into a pretty darn easy thing to make. Plus, and this is her favorite part–the lasagna turns out nice and firm, not soupy.
Here’s how it’s done at the Cottage:
Cook one gigantic pot of spaghetti sauce by combining a #10 can of crushed tomatoes from the Huge Mart with cooked ground beef and onion. Season it in whatever way seemeth thou best, marinara style, whether that means packets of spaghetti sauce mix or fresh herbs or something in between.
Serve it to the teeming masses over spaghetti noodles. Watch them hork most of it down.
The next day, use the leftover sauce to make lasagna. Layer sauce, uncooked lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese (how to make your own), other cheeses of your choice, and repeat layers 3 times or until you feel like stopping. The top layer should be sauce and all the noodles should be covered. (Parmesan on top is okay) You’ll love how easy it is to spread ricotta on top of hard noodles instead of goobery ones.
Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. about an hour, until the noodles are soft. (Poke with a fork in the middle and on the edge) If you feel nervous, check it after 45 minutes and add a little water to the pan if necessary. But normally, the moisture in the sauce is enough to soften the noodles. Bonus: the noodles are absorbing saucy liquid instead of plain water and are thus extra delicious.
Just in case oven-ready noodles really are part of a conspiracy, you’ll have struck a blow for right and truth.